e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Feeding of low-birth-weight infants

WHO recommends that low-birth-weight (LBW) infants, including those with very low birth weight (VLBW), should be fed mother's own milk. If these infants cannot be fed mother's own milk, they should be fed donor human milk (in settings where safe and affordable milk banking facilities are available or can be set up) or standard infant formula.

Very-low-birth-weight infants who cannot be fed mother's own milk or donor human milk should be given preterm infant formula if they fail to gain weight despite adequate feeding with standard infant formula.

Low-birth-weight infants who are able to breastfeed should be put to the breast as soon as possible after birth when they are clinically stable, and should be exclusively breastfed until six months of age. Low-birth-weight infants who need to be fed by an alternative oral feeding method should be fed by cup or spoon and should be fed based on the infants' hunger cues, except when the infant remains asleep beyond three hours of the last feed.

Implementation of these recommendations will help to reduce mortality and severe morbidity among these infants while helping in their growth and neurodevelopment.

The full set of recommendations are provided within the guidance documents referenced below.

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines


Systematic reviews used to develop guidelines
Related Cochrane reviews
Other related systematic reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

25 March 2014 13:26 CET

Category 1 intervention

Guidelines have been recently approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee


There is not yet any implementation information related to this intervention in GINA